CHARLOTTE, NC (Mike Persinger/Charlotte Observer) - The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Carolina Panthers 17-14 on a 1-yard Joshua Dobbs touchdown run with two seconds to play on Thursday night in an otherwise meaningless exhibition game at Bank of America Stadium.
Now, they wait.
With the starters and a number of key reserves reduced to handing out high fives and modeling baseball caps, the players fighting for the final spots on the 53-man regular-season roster made their final case.
Wide receiver Kaelin Clay, who finished with three receptions for 76 yards, including a 47-yard catch from Joe Webb that set up a touchdown and a 14-10 lead.
- Wide receiver Damiere Byrd, who caught that touchdown pass from Webb.
- Linebacker Ben Jacobs, who combined with rookie cornerback Cole Luke for a key tackle on fourth down deep in Carolina territory.
For others, it was a frustrating evening.
- Second-round draft pick Curtis Samuel, who had two catches for 5 yards in his most extensive play of an injury-hampered preseason, limped to the locker room with an ankle injury early in the third quarter. He didn’t return.
- Former Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware didn’t play until 1:21 remained in the third quarter. He finished the preseason without being credited with a tackle.
- Former Charlotte 49ers receiver Austin Duke was targeted once, on a deep pass down the right-hand side that fell incomplete, and returned one punt for 3 yards.
- Graham Gano, who said this week he believed he had won the kicking job over rookie Harrison Butker, didn’t kick – except for a 51-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter. He doinked it off the right upright.
- Second-year cornerback Zack Sanchez hobbled off in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers are likely to split the releases of 37 players over Friday and Saturday – the team doesn't practice either day – and must be at 53 players by 4 p.m. on Saturday. They can fill the practice 10-player squad (11 if one is an international exemption) after players clear waivers on Sunday afternoon.
Carolina finished the exhibition schedule at 2-2. The regular season opens with a game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sept. 10.
Three who mattered
In the fourth preseason game of an NFL season, no one really matters all that much.
- No starters on either side of the ball saw the field for the Panthers. No Christian McCaffrey, either. It’s a benefit that the rosters were still at 90 – the Panthers had six offensive linemen for five spots, and wouldn’t have had the rosters already dropped to 75.
- Fozzy Whittaker ran like a player fearful for his roster spot on a 4-yard, first-quarter touchdown. Even with Christian McCaffrey’s arrival he should be safe, but he didn’t run like it.
- Joshua Dobbs to Justin Hunter for a 58-yard Tennessee Vol to Tennessee Vol touchdown victimized Cole Luke and gave the Steelers a 10-7 lead in the second quarter.
- In the fourth quarter, Luke caused a fumble that stopped a Pittsburgh drive with the Panthers leading 14-10, and Carolina ran out the clock.
- No Panthers or Steelers kneeled for the national anthem.
- The announced attendance was 72,891, but the best guess for bodies in seats is more like 30,000.